Proposed bill would help repair or replace county bridges

A bill in the Legislature could give extra funds to Lancaster County. It would include repairing bridges which are defined as deficient, much like the one on north 98th street.

“This is probably a $2 or $2 and a half million bridge, and right now, the county does not have the emergency funds to be able to repair or replace this bridge,” Lancaster County Engineer, Pam Dingman said.

The bill, introduced by Senator Kate Bolz of Lincoln, would allow counties to expand funds from existing tax levy bonds and would theoretically, give Lancaster County around $2 million which would either replace or make repairs to many bridges.

“This is a 1947 bridge. It probably had a useful life of 50 years, so of course, that was over in 1997,” Dingman said. “We are doing everything we can to keep this bridge open to the public, but we are not going to win the test of time on this one.”

Currently in the county, 16 bridges are closed, 19 are structurally deficient and 15 are scour critical. The county has a $200 million funding gap for those bridges that need fixed.

“A lot of people don’t realize that FEMA is a reimbursement program, so you have to have the money to replace something before you can be reimbursed, and adding bridge bonding for bridges like this one would give us the ability to start work on our bridges sooner,” Dingman said.

Right now, the bill allows counties to bond for buildings, not bridges. Officials also added that they have not been able to get funds from FEMA since the flooding back in 2015.

The legislative bill was on the debate floor Friday, no decisions were made.

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